With 500 meters to go, Callum Bolger made his move.
The San Luis Obispo High School junior was content to sit deep in the pack for most of the 3,200-meter race Saturday night at the CIF State Track and Field Championships. And just as he had done all season, the final-lap bell was his cue to go.
For a brief time it worked. Bolger carried a lead into the final 300 meters. But as the large crowd at Buchanan stood in unison as the runners hit the final straight, the stifling night-time heat — and two runners who found a burst — finally caught up with him.
Bolger held on just long enough for a third-place finish. His legs gave out one stride after crossing the finish line, sending him sprawling onto the track as the rest of the field finished around him.
“In the last stretch, I was giving it all I had. In the last few feet, my legs just couldn’t handle it. At least they gave out at the right time,” Bolger said after the race.
Before the race, much of the talk was about the heat. The temperature at race time, just after 10:30 p.m., read 88 degrees.
“I had to hydrate more and pay attention to that more during the day leading up to it,” Bolger said, but he added that other than that it didn’t have much affect on the race.
The times reflected that.
St. Joseph Notre Dame’s Cooper Teare finished in first place with a time of 8:51.85, beating out Great Oak’s Cole Spencer by two-thousandths of a second. Their final lap times were 56 seconds to Bolger’s 58.
“All of them were just flying,” SLO High coach Steven Boaz said.
Seven runners finished under the nine-minute mark.
“I feel good because I gave it everything I had. Those other guys just passed me because they were better racers on this day,” Bolger said.
Boaz said he was proud of the way Bolger stuck to his race plan and had a chance to win.
“It was a very exciting way to end the season,” Boaz said.
As Bolger exited the track area, one of the first people to shake his hand was a man decked out in Stanford gear. Bolger will have a lot more colleges shaking his hand soon.
Track and field recruiting officially opens up on July 1. Boaz said there were a number of college coaches who approached him on Saturday night.
“I’ve been putting off talking to colleges until after the season,” Bolger said, adding he still plans to run in the Brooks PR Invitational on June 18 in Washington. “After the Washington race, I have some serious stuff to think about. I have a lot of options. I just have to assess all of them and see which college is the best fit for me.”
Whatever he decides, he is sure to have plenty of support.
A large group of SLO High supporters, including coaches, teammates and alumni, made the trip and gathered around to congratulate him after the race.
“It’s really great to see that our whole running community is getting behind me,” Bolger said.